Thursday, 16 July 2020

Celebrating a BIG Milestone

I have some BIG news to celebrate. I hope you don't mind me shouting it from the rooftops but it is a huge milestone in my writing career. 

So what's happened

Well, today I heard from my publisher, Bookouture, that in the year since I published my first psychological thriller, What She Saw, my three thrillers have sold a total of 100K books. Yes, you read it right, a hundred thousand... I can hardly believe it either!

When I gave up writing short stories for the magazines, it was always going to be a risk. I'd had over three hundred stories published over the course of six years and become a regular writer for The People's Friend. It was a nice little earner. Whatever I'd thought, and I really did try, I found I couldn't write stories and novels alongside each other. I didn't have the time, but also, I didn't have enough head space to allow the ever-changing cast of characters that wandered through my short stories to co-exist with the ones in my thrillers - ones whose voices were louder and more insistent. 

So many things were going through my head when I made the decision to swap to novels: What if I couldn't do it? What if no agent or publisher liked what I'd written? What if the magazines no longer wanted my stories if my novels failed and I wanted to go back?

But I wanted the challenge. I needed to prove to myself that I could do it and the only way I could do that was by taking the plunge.

My journey from short story to novel has been documented in this blog, both the ups and downs and the highs and lows... and, yes, there have been many of both! It's been both exciting and terrifying and I couldn't have done it without faith. 

I'll be honest, there have been times when I wanted to give up, such as when the agent who plucked me out of the slush pile dropped me soon after, or when I had my first mean review. There have been great times as well, though: my debut winning the Flash500 Novel Competition for example or when I signed with Bookouture only a week after sending my novel to them. In fact, every time I hold a new novel in my hands for the first time, I want to burst with joy and pride.

This news today is the icing on the cake. When I took my first tentative steps along the novel-writing road, I imagined it would only be friends and family who might want to read my offerings.That a hundred thousand people (most of them strangers) have bought my psychological thrillers is humbling.

Mind you... my mum does have a large bookcase!

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Just for the Thrill - Guest Post Ruth Heald

It's been a while since I've has a guest on my blog so I'm particularly delighted that today I'm welcoming fellow Bookouture author, Ruth Heald, to the hot seat! Ruth's latest novel, I know Your Secret, was published last week and I've been dying to ask her a few questions about her writing. Here are her replies.

Have you always wanted to write in the psychological thriller genre?

For a long time I didn’t think about genre at all and just wrote books on themes or questions I was interested in. But I’d always read and loved psychological thrillers and I wanted to write something that would find an audience and that readers would really connect with. I saw how popular psychological thrillers were and decided to write one myself!


Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when the idea for your latest novel came to you?

My latest book is based on an idea that’s been drifting around in the back on my mind for years. I’ve always been interested in power imbalances, especially between women. I Know Your Secret is about a marriage counsellor and her client. Neither woman is exactly who they say they are and they both try to manipulate each other as the stakes get higher and higher.


Are you a plotter or a pantster and how long does it take you to write your thrillers?

I aspire to be a planner, but I can’t seem to stick to my outlines! I tend to know a few key scenes and the ending before I start and these usually stay the same throughout the drafting process. But no matter how much I plan the rest of the book, it all seems to change as the story evolves. 

My thrillers take about nine months to a year to write. I usually have a couple on the go at the same time.


Could you describe your typical writing day?

There’s no typical day! I’m looking after my young children a lot of the time, so I have to fit around them. When I have childcare I write the entire time without stopping. Otherwise I write when there’s the opportunity – so during nap time and evenings and weekends.


I’m sure my readers would love to hear about your road to publication. Was it long and winding or did you take a short cut?

It feels long, but I think that’s pretty typical! The most common characteristic amongst published writers seems to be resilience. My journey began way back in 2001, when I started writing my first novel but never finished it. Eleven years later I published 27: Six Friends, One Year. Following that I wrote four more novels and started many more, but just kept them on my hard drive. After my daughter was born in 2016, I decided to take my writing more seriously and I started writing The Mother’s Mistake, and I was very pleased when Bookouture acquired it the following year.  


Do you ever struggle to find inspiration?

Not at all – there’s inspiration absolutely everywhere, in every person and everything going on around us. I don’t struggle for ideas – I couldn’t write all the books in my head if I had all the time in the world. I do struggle to stay focused on one book at a time and not be tempted to start a new book whenever a new idea comes in.


Describe a typical publication day.

There’s always a lot of social media to do to let readers know the book’s out. I also make sure I take a bit of time to celebrate with a nice lunch with family and try to do something relaxing too like going for a walk or treating myself to a Thai massage.


What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

At the moment, I spend a lot of time with my young children, going out for walks and watching them delight in the simple pleasures of life.


Which writers in your genre inspire you?

There are so many brilliant writers in my genre. Recently I’ve really enjoyed books by Lisa Jewell, Tammy Cohen and Victoria Helen Stone.


Persuade my readers to buy your book in one sentence.

I think I’ll get someone else to do it for me! Here’s a quote from a review: “Completely unpredictable and a fantastic read from start to finish!”


What next for Ruth Heald?

I have another psychological thriller in the pipeline for release in February. It’s about a doomed wedding. I’ve just finished the first draft and I’m looking forward to the edits! 

Ruth Heald is the bestselling author of psychological thrillers The Mother's Mistake, The Woman Upstairs and I Know Your Secret.

Ruth studied Economics at Oxford University and then worked in an eclectic mix of sectors from nuclear decommissioning to management consulting. She worked at the BBC for nine years before leaving to write full time. Ruth is fascinated by psychology and finding out what drives people to violence, destruction and revenge. She’s married with two children and her novels explore our greatest fears in otherwise ordinary, domestic lives.

You can connect with Ruth on Twitter @RJ_Heald, or Facebook 


Amazon links to Ruth's books: 

I Know Your Secret

The Mother's Mistake

The Woman Upstairs

Thursday, 28 May 2020

My First Lockdown Publication Day!

Last week was a very exciting week for me! Why? Because on Wednesday, I celebrated the publication of my third psychological thriller, 'The Bride'. Although of course, because of lockdown, this publication day was very different to my others.

Contrary to what readers of your novels might think, most of an author's day after the book has gone 'live' isn't spent hanging around bookshops stroking your cover or sitting on the Richard and Judy couch (okay so that doesn't happen now but I still imagine it). Instead, it's spent on social media: posting the news, sharing other people's posts, re-tweeting and thanking all the lovely well-wishers who have taken the time to message you their congratulations. It's very tiring on the typing fingers and mentally challenging trying to keep up with it all as the last thing you want to do is offend anyone.

Flowers from my husband
What I've done in the past to manage my day, is allow myself time to meet up with friends at lunchtime. For the launch of What We Saw, I had a sneaky pub meal with writing buddy, Tracy Fells and for We Were Sisters, I had a beach walk with fellow Bookouture author, Liz Eeles.

I also had evening celebrations - a small one involving Prosecco with local friends for the first novel and a full-blown book launch at the local bookshop for the second. Both fabulous occasions.

There was nothing like that this year of course but I still managed to raise a glass of Prosecco to 'The Bride'. Instead of meeting in real life, my friends and I had a publication day Zoom celebration... almost as good! This was followed by another celebration with my husband and daughter.

Strangely, it was the most relaxing publication day I've had. Nothing to organise and only myself to please!

The following day, I did  something a little more out of my comfort zone. I was invited to be one of the authors at Noir at the Bar Edinburgh. Under normal circumstances, this would involve going to a real bar (I'm all for that!) and speaking to a real audience (not so happy about that!) but, with lockdown in place, it was going to be completely virtual.

I spent most of the day preparing. From the way I was behaving, you'd have thought that it was an all day event not just a ten minute slot but I hate being taken by surprise (it's why, when I was a teacher, I never liked supply teaching). Can you believe I worried about what to wear, what extract of my novel to read, what questions I might be asked and even which room in the house looked least like a hoarder live there (we've emptied my daughter's flat and her things are everywhere!).

By the time I got to speak, I could have done with a real bar, but as often is the case when you stress about things, the event was lovely. In fact, the host couldn't have been more welcoming, there were no trick questions and I didn't make a complete fool of myself thank goodness. If you like, you can watch it here.

So now all the fun and games are over and I've allowed myself to wind down a little. I've nearly completed the first draft of the next novel and am looking forward to working on it before submitting to my editor.

My fingers are crossed that come December I'll be able to have a proper launch for the next book but, in the meantime, the sun is shining, my roses are blooming and I'm feeling proud to have published three novels.

If you'd like to read The Bride, you can buy it here: Amazon

Saturday, 2 May 2020

A Year as a Published Novelist!

You know when people say that time flies? Well, it really does!

I can hardly believe that just one year ago, I was celebrating the publication of my debut psychological thriller, WHAT SHE SAW. A very different day it was too as you can see if you read my publication day post.

Happy Book Birthday!

The day started with a frenzy of social media retweets, Facebook shares and thank yous but I was able to take a break at lunchtime to celebrate the launch of my novel in the pub with writing buddy, Tracy Fells. After more publicity in the afternoon, the evening was spent with my good friends and family, raising a glass of Prosecco to my new book baby.

So it's a year on and I have now been a published novelist for exactly twelve months. And what a year it's been. In that time, I've had another thriller published (We Were Sisters) and my third (The Bride) will have it's launch on May 20th. I am also nearing the end of the first draft of novel number four.

Instead of leaving the house to celebrate, the Coronavirus has meant I'm in lockdown reflecting.

So what's this year really been like? Has being a novelist changed things? 

In a word 'yes'.

As most of my regular readers know, I've been a published writer of short stories since 2012 and have had a successful career writing for the women's magazines. You wouldn't think publishing a novel would be very different, but believe me it is. And mostly it's due to this unassuming little word... deadline. What I've learnt is that writing to a deadline is a very different thing to writing when you want to. With short stories, I had my own self-imposed deadlines but if I didn't stick to them, no one cared except me. Now, if I don't meet a deadline, a whole series of things will be affected: the timing of the cover reveal, the hiring of the copy editor, the date the book is due to go on NetGalley, the studio time for the studio bookings for the audio, the paperback printing. In other words, if one thing is delayed, everything else is too. It's not just yourself you're letting down, it's your publisher and a lot of other people.

The main difference is the emotional highs and lows you get from having written a novel. If you write a story and it doesn't get accepted, you just dust yourself down and write another. The magazine's publisher will have lost nothing and you might have lost a day of so of your time. With a novel, it's very different. If your novel doesn't meet your publisher's required standard then that's many months of work and expense down the drain. You will have let not just yourself but your publisher down. If, like me, you spend your life anxious to please, that can be a big weight on your shoulders and that's something you're very aware of.

And don't get me started on reviews! If you're lucky, a magazine might pass on to you a nice comment about your story from a reader. More often than not though, you'll have absolutely no idea how it's been received and you'll never know if a reader didn't like it. With a novel you are at the mercy of reviews (NetGalley, Goodreads and Amazon) and although nothing beats the feeling of getting a glowing one, a bad review can send your emotions spiralling downwards.

After three novels, I should be used to all this but I'm not. Maybe I never will be.

But, would I change anything? Sometimes when I'm struggling to think where my novel is going, if I've had some difficult edits or I've received a bad review, I wonder if I might have been happier when I was a short story writer. But then I look at my books on my shelf or in my local bookshop, read the wonderful things people have said about them and remember how proud my family and friends are of what I've achieved. 

It's then I see that everything I've talked about (the good and the bad) is just part and parcel of being a novelist. I'm proud of having written three novels and I mustn't ever forget it.

If you'd like to wish What She Saw a Happy Birthday you can buy it here

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Confessions of a Debut Author - Guest Post Nikki Smith

I met today's guest, Nikki Smith, at a lunch for psychological thriller writers in London last year. We hit it off straight away and I was happy to hear that her debut thriller, 'ALL IN HER HEAD', would be coming out this year. That time has come and I'm delighted to welcome Nikki onto Wendy's Writing Now to answer a few questions.

Here are her answers.

Describe your latest novel in one sentence.

ALL IN HER HEAD is a timely psychological suspense novel that explores the darkest corners of a mother’s mind.

I’m sure my readers would love to hear about your road to publication. Was it long and winding or did you take a short cut?

I did an English degree & wrote a novel after leaving University, but it wasn’t very good & unsurprisingly wasn’t picked up by an agent. So, I gave up trying to write a book and went on to have a career in finance – it wasn’t really what I wanted to do, but it paid the bills. I still wrote, but just things for me. Then a couple of years ago, someone I was at school with contacted me on Facebook to ask if I’d ever done anything with my writing as she still remembered the stories I used to read out in class. It was a now or never moment, and I signed up for a Curtis Brown creative writing course, which I absolutely loved, and started writing All In Her Head. I subsequently won a competition that another author, Amanda Reynolds, was running and she became my mentor. After I’d worked on the first few chapters of my novel with her for a while, I sent it off to the amazing agent Sophie Lambert who had read my cover letter on the Curtis Brown course, and who I really, really hoped would like it. She agreed to represent me, and a few months later we submitted the manuscript to publishers where Orion offered me a two-book deal.

Are you a plotter or a pantster and how long does it take you to write your thrillers?

I’m a plotter. It might be down to my background in finance but I love a spreadsheet and plan my books on one – dividing it into chapters that I colour code so I can easily see what’s going on. For me, it’s a bit like working with post-it notes, but easier not to lose! I can write a first draft quite quickly – in around 2-3 months, but it takes at least a further 6 months to edit it.

Could you describe your typical writing day?

I’m more productive in the morning, so my ideal writing day would involve dropping my children at school and then writing until about 2-3pm. If I’m on a deadline I may then write more in the evening or at the weekends. I was working full-time when I wrote All In Her Head so I had to get up very early and work late. However, from Monday, I’ll be starting home schooling with my daughters, so I have no idea what my schedule is going to look like!

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

When I’m not writing I like to read, watch films and box sets, cook and travel. I love seeing new places and meeting new people. It is one of the things that I am going to miss most over the next few months.

When did you first realise you were going to be a writer?

I have always enjoyed making up stories since I was really young. Creative writing was by far my favourite lesson at school, and I loved reading anything I could get my hands on. So, from that point of view, I would say that from very young I knew I wanted to be a writer. But it was only when I got my agent, Sophie Lambert, that I realised I had a real chance of getting a book published, and when my editor, Harriet Bourton, bought my book I knew I was going to become an author.

What does your family think of your writing?

My parents were on holiday in Australia when I told them I had a book deal and I’m not sure they actually believed me! All my family have been so supportive of my writing – my two daughters are my biggest cheerleaders – I dedicated my novel to them as I couldn’t have written it without them and I am so grateful for all their encouragement.

How important is social media to an author?

I think it is becoming ever more so. For two reasons – firstly because I think we can all see that in the current situation, the power of social media comes into its own. My physical book launch event, and all other publicity events (as with everyone else who is published at the moment) have been cancelled. I’ve found that online people have been wonderful at offering support – I have joined in Facebook Live virtual book launch parties and will be attending online events and festivals. Secondly, even before this horrendous situation arose, I found the writing community to be so willing to share their advice and expertise. I have made friends online through Twitter and Instagram who I have gone on to meet in person, and have set up WhatsApp groups with other authors who are a wonderful source of daily support in what can be quite a lonely business.

What next for Nikki Smith?

I’m working on my second book which will be published in 2021 – I can’t tell you much about it, except that it’s a psychological suspense novel which involves families and secrets!

About Nikki

Nikki Smith studied English Literature at Birmingham University, before pursuing a career in finance. Following a ‘now or never’ moment, she applied for a Curtis Brown Creative course where she started writing this book. She lives near Guildford with her husband, two daughters and a cat who thinks she’s a dog. All In Her Head is her first novel.


You can discover more about Nikki on social media

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Writing in Lockdown - The New Normal

This is a very strange post to write because we are all, writers and readers alike, in a very strange, unprecedented situation.

social distancing

A few months ago, I'd never even heard of these things and if you'd told me they would soon be part of my everyday vocabulary, and affect every aspect of my life, I wouldn't have believed you.

So, how has this odd and scary situation affected me in general and as a writer in particular?

I thought I'd start with the not so good things and then finish with the good things (the best way I'm sure).

Not so good things

  • Even before we were required to stay in our homes as much as possible, I had anxiety issues about large social gatherings and travel in particular. My safe place was my home. I'm afraid that when this is all over, my brain will be whispering see you were right and my issues might get worse.

  • Despite what I've written above, I love going out and meeting people as long as it's in small groups or individually... and as long as it doesn't involve travelling long distances. I like to do this in measured doses though as too much socialising cuts into my writing time and I do like my own company and space. Because we can no longer go to cafes, WhatsApp, social media and video conferencing apps such as Zoom have come into their own. BUT... there are so many WhatsApp groups being formed, so many group chat requests, so many messages, so many phone calls. Frankly, it's overwhelming but, if I don't join in, I feel like I'll be judged or will be missing out on something.

  • Anxiety in the first week (before the full-lockdown) meant I wasn't able to concentrate on writing, so little was done.

  • I'm a full-time writer. I write on my own at home with my dog. I have my own space and time to organise things as I want. Now, I have both my husband and my adult daughter at home which requires a different way of working and thinking. Every day feels like a weekend. Thankfully, at the end of week one, we've found ourselves a routine of sorts and it doesn't seem to have affected my productivity (more of this in the 'good' things section).

  • My eldest daughter is a key worker in the prison service which is a constant worry.

  • I miss going to cafes. I miss visiting National Trust Gardens. I miss my ballroom dancing. I'm desperately sad I won't be visiting the Highlands and Skye for the first time in May. I miss seeing my friends and the members of my family who don't live with me. 

Good things

  • At the moment we are all well.

  • We live in a small town in the country so we have walks from our doorstop (river and downland). It would be nice to go further afield but I know we're very lucky.

  • As I said earlier, my husband is now working from home and I have my youngest adult daughter living with us. Despite my worries about how it would affect my working day, now that we're all used to rubbing along with each other, it actually makes the day more varied. There's always someone to chat to when I need a break and people to share the dog walk with. As long as I get my daily word count done at some time in the day, there are now other interesting things to do and share with my family.

  • I am still able to have my monthly teacakes and goal setting with writing pal Tracy. We've been having monthly meet-ups for the last eight years and a bit of social distancing isn't going to stop us!

  • Despite all of the clubs and activities I belong to closing (I do ballroom and Latin dancing, badminton, choir, Pilates and Fitsteps) my daughter and I have discovered a wealth of material online to help us stay fit. We've tried Pilates, yoga and have started Jo Wicks' morning workout (that was certainly a killer the day after).

  • As a family, we've rediscovered activities we used to play when the children were younger: boules, swingball and indoor darts. And have realised you don't need children to still enjoy them.

  • My daughter and I have also been learning new skills. She's learning German and we're both learning to play the ukulele. It's a really easy instrument to learn and we now have a repertoire of around ten songs which don't sound too bad, if I do say so myself.

It's and odd situation to be in but we're making the best of it.  

I'd like to finish this post by wishing all my readers the very best in these difficult times and hope you stay well and happy.

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Cover Reveal of The Bride

Over the last few months, I have been welcoming guests to my blog to talk about their writing and their books but today it's back to me!

I'm delighted that after weeks of keeping it under wraps, I can now reveal the cover of my third psychological thriller, The Bride, and I couldn't be more excited.

But that's not all. The Bride is now available for pre-order on Amazon which will mean you can have it land on your kindle or doorstep on publication day (May 20th).

I actually think this stage of the publishing process is my favourite - better even than publication day. That's because on cover reveal day you have the excitement of letting people see what the book looks like without the anxiety of whether you'll get good or bad reviews. It's all good!

I have loved every one of my Bookouture covers and this one is no exception. Three cheers for my fabulous cover designer! I love how for each book, the font for the titles and author name remain the same (strengthening the 'Wendy Clarke' brand) while the colours change. This means each novel is individual rather than a clone of the others. For What She Saw, the colour choice was blue and red with red lettering, for We Were Sisters, indigo and pink with yellow lettering, and for The Bride, red, black and white with white lettering.

Also, each cover has a 'motif' that gives a clue to something that happens in the novel. What She Saw had an abandoned pair of children's shoes (child in jeopardy) in We Were Sisters it was a child's ribbon tied to a railing (missing child). With The Bride it's a white and black rose... I wonder what that could symbolise?

If you'd like to pre-order The Bride, the link is here. Amazon UK  Amazon US